Antwerp

by Roberto Bolaño

Hardcover, 2010

Status

Available

Genres

Publication

New York : New Directions Pub., 2010.

Description

A police sergeant searches for someone (perhaps a hunchback) and a nameless young woman (red-haired, a drug addict, a witness) sodomized by a cop--or is it the narrator? A collation of 56 "scenes" set in 1980 Barcelona.

User reviews

LibraryThing member P1g5purt
"….reality seems to me like a swarm of stray sentences”

At 76 pocket-sized pages and retailing at £11.43 on Amazon I feel a bit of A(n)twerp for buying it but it’s by Roberto Bolano so it was, for me, an unavoidable purchase. Bolano’s statement “It’s the only novel that doesn’t embarrass me” has, I think, more to do with the form than the content - Antwerp initially reads more like a highly fragmentary prose poem than a novel. Given it’s length it’s incredibly spacious – corpses, dwarves, detectives, prostitutes, poets and Bolano jockey for position in 56 loosely connected pieces. Gradually, however, a semi-coherent narrative unfolds - It’s a piece of DIY detective fiction where the sleuthing is about stitching together rather than unravelling plot lines.

Whether you’ll warm to Antwerp will probably depend on what you believe fiction to be. Saul Bellow, for whom Finnegan’s Wake was the indecipherable chatter of voices in a distant room, thought that fiction should be a conversation with the reader. Martin Amis finessed this. Fine writers like Bellow, he said, would also invite you into their home and give you the most comfortable chair by the fire. On the strength of Antwerp Bolano would leave you outside in the biting cold with nose pressed against the window straining to read his lips.
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LibraryThing member donato
First, some fun facts:
1) This was the first novel written by Bolaño, but the last to be published during his lifetime (he didn't try to get it published when he wrote it because "they would have slammed the door in my face").
2) This particular (Italian) translation was done by a Masters class in Spanish translation, so it's a "group effort".

And now to the text itself:
It reads like a description of a David Lynch film. But it's not that.
It reads like a collage of hallucinatory snippets of thought. But it's not that.
Or maybe it is.

As always, the first lines tell us how to read this book:

"The boy nears the house. Avenue of larch. The Fronde. Necklace of tears. Love is a mixture of sentimentalism and sex (Burroughs)." [my translation from the Italian]

That's it right there: think of Burroughs.
So there's no plot really, just 56 chapters of poetic prose and snippets of dialog swirling around mysterious deaths, sadistic sex, a movie projected in a forest, and a disappearance (among other things). But it's strangely hypnotic. You kind of get pulled into that swirling, even if you don't know where it's going, or what's even going... because you know what? it doesn't matter. Just dig it man, run that dangerous razor's edge of not knowing...
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LibraryThing member Voise15
Bolano's first 'novel', Antwerp is an intriguing and condensed rehersal of motifs that he goes on to develop with great verve in his later works - dreams and reality, the foreigner, the struggling poet...Antwerp however feels much more experimental and hallucinatory and is less accessible than something like 'The Savage Detectives' although it is very slim 78 pages in my edition.
'rules about plot only apply to novels that are copies of other novels' - quite!
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LibraryThing member V.V.Harding
Antwerp is depressing in several ways. Primarily it comes from an evidently tremendous effort to be cool, elliptical, laid-back, and fearless in subject matter. I am inordinately fond of Bolaño's work, so I'd like to think this is all intentional and directed toward an end, but if so, it escaped me, and I didn't even want to browse back and see if I'd missed anything.

It is an early work, which lay unpublished for three decades before it was sent to the publisher with a sort of Slow Learner introductory section, and it is a perilously thin volume, with lots of white space on the few pages, so to make something significant happen in this little space appears to have been beyond Bolaño's power.

Brutal demeaning behavior toward women is another depressing feature: he has written very similar scenes far more sensitively elsewhere.

So this belongs very low on the list of Bolaño books, and god knows there are lots of others that give more pleasure in the handling of similar, as well as different, material. And I'll continue reading; a lot of his titles are waiting in the wings.
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LibraryThing member Eoin
The most difficult and least rewarding Bolaño I've read yet. Still, he sure know how to put a sentence together and frame a moment in time.
LibraryThing member soylentgreen23
'Antwerp' is the oddest of Bolano's books, and that's saying something. It consists of a series of short fragments the chop and change from viewpoint to viewpoint, like a modern take on Burroughs's cut up technique. Reading these strange vignettes was disorienting and the story difficult to find; the story was what you could make of it, as if you were trying to find meaning while flicking between a hundred channels on cable TV. Mysterious, then, but still worth a look - if you're that devoted to Bolano, which I certainly am.… (more)
LibraryThing member TheTwoDs
Originally written in 1980 when Bolano was 27 years old, not published in Spanish until 2002 and translated into English in 2011, Antwerp is the genesis of his fictional voice. The fractured narration, self-as-character, conversational snippets - it's all here in a much more raw form than his later works. Again, the book ostensibly deals with a murder and its investigation, but is not a mystery. Plot is not the point - atmosphere and language reign supreme. As unstructured and formless as it is, Antwerp is probably only for completists, scholars and the most hardcore of fans.… (more)

Language

Original language

Spanish

Barcode

11289
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